Friday, January 29, 2010

Luminous Lunacy

Just about a month ago, Cat Urbigkit posted over at Querencia about some rough nights on the ranch, here. Wild things and tame, mooning about.

Last night the almost-full moon already presided, magnificently, as I took The Pack for a sunset pasture walk before dinner.

The Pack is not settled and orderly on a regular day. Wedging three special-needs fosters in with four not-uncomplicated beasts of my own has not always been a path paved with silicone. Cole wants to control Sophia and make her not an idiot. Rosie thinks Jasmine is unnecessary and has ideas about making her nonexistent. Jasmine doesn't know whether she is a party girl or a bitch on wheels. Pip disapproves on general principles. Moe is conflicted, and on cold, wet days, a wild card. Barry White tries to be invisible. Sophia just tries everyone.

Two weeks ago, we had 24 hours of Jasmine rampage at the dark of the moon. It started with a fiasco. Dogs asking urgently to go out into the pitch-black, early evening -- not barking, but whining and pacing. I send them all out, but instead of bursting bladders, the occasion was an invisible intruder. All seven roared down into the buttcrack just below the barn, and then (heard, not seen) hooked a hard right and chased whatever it was up into the hayfield to the west.

Nothing has ever run away that direction before. And the barking was angry and insistent, some of it (Moe, I think, and maybe Sophia) more of a roar. Not the usual sounding off at a raccoon wondering about chicken dinners, or deer at the apple tree. I put on boots and came outside, called them out of the hayfield. Six dogs came right back.

Up at the property line by the township park, Jasmine was yapping hysterically. The lights were on at the park (why?) and I could see her silhouette running the outfield fenceline. I could not tell whether she was inside or outside the fence.

I could hear people yelling, and another dog barking. Jasmine, whose recall is actually quite good and reasonably proofed at this point, was deaf to my calls.

I had to get a headlamp and march up there to get her. My plan was to leash her and then deal with the shrieking owners of the dog who had just been poking around my poultry. When I got close she got the fuck out of Dodge, ran back to the house. Too much adrenaline for her brain to process. I followed her back. She went around to the back door in what I'm sure she thought was a very guileful move to cover her tracks. Park? I was never up at the park ignoring your calls and barking like a damned fool. What would make you think that?

The idiots whose loose dog had bolted the park, crossed a couple hundred yards of hayfield, and come sniffing around my barnyard, continued to scream at their barking beast. I never saw them.

They are fortunate that my predator-control of choice is four-legged* rather than two-barreled.

The next morning, Jazzie ate a cardboard box in my office. I told her not to. She thumped her tail, apologized, and went and ate another as soon as my back was turned.

Rosie was looking like she might have a go at the little bitch. Sophia was antagonizing both Cole and Pip. Moe was red-eyed and crabby. Mommy needed vodka. Okay, just a break from the drama would do. Time for Jasmine to spend some time in the foster kennel and play yard. I took Barry White out to keep her company. I put Sophia in the indoor/outdoor kennel. I continued with my indoor work.

When Perfesser Chaos got home, he went out to do evening barn chores. I asked him to bring in Barry White and Jasmine when he was done.

Came back in a little later with just Sophia. Jasmine had poked her head out the kennel door and nailed him on the hand when he reached for the latch. Fortunately, the hand was encased in a leather work glove. This is exactly the kind of poor decision that landed her here instead of going straight to an adoptive home.

I went out to have a talk with her about it. She was skulking. Oh shit, what now?

She skulked inside with me. Chaos forgave her, gravely. You know that Foster Daddy would be a lot less sanguine about this if he hadn't been wearing gloves, don't you?

So she's on Jasmine probation now. No more freedom of the yard -- she gets put out on a cable for breaks, in the kennel for a bit of the day, and supervised walks. Lots of recall work on those walks.

Then last night, as I was walking seven dogs towards a nearly-full moon hanging just above the trees to the east, I could feel the crackling. My control was tenuous. The dogs were torn between the temptation of lighting up and their earnest desire for me to keep them in line. They bounced against their training and the notion of human leadership, testing to see how far it would stretch. Considering the option of becoming werewolves.

We'll walk twice for a while, four and four. Barry White can come on both walks, as he is invisible.**

Last night, when Rosie woke me up to tell me about another intruder, the moon, now low in the west, made the world of new snow luminous and bright. I stood out on the deck as she and Cole ran off the deer that had come to browse on the apple tree. The trees threw sharp shadows on the sparkling, swirling whiteness, and I could see all three animals emerge from the brush. The defenders stopped in the south pasture and watched the doe run, then turned and trotted back along the old fenceline, no confusion, no fog of battle, adrenaline well in check, duty discharged.

Dogs after all, even in the moonlight.


* Well, 28-legged on that night. The creature may not ever come when it's called, but I'm guessing it won't come around my barn again, either.

** I tried it today, and the crackling was inaudible.

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